Celebrating LGBTQ-friendly senior housing (photo: SAGE)
Today, far too many older New Yorkers remain invisible. Older people in New York City are often thrown aside despite their incredible bourgeois, economic and political contributions to our society and the fact that the population of 60 and over is growing five times faster than the population under 18 years of age.
This is especially true for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer / gay (LGBTQ +) seniors who are making a strong presence in New York. Of the estimated 800,000 LGBTQ adults in the state, nearly a third (28%) are over 50 years old.
Unfortunately, many are often disconnected from critical services, such as LGBTQ-confirming health services and affordable housing, in order to age safely in communities.
Fortunately, New York City is now experiencing a moment of political transformation. With Mayor Eric Adam’s administration ready to take the helm and a historically diverse city council on deck, now’s the opportunity to recreate our city.
To begin with, the city will need to promote equality and eliminate discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other inequalities in order to create a New York where we can all thrive as we grow older.
It is also time to address the growing disparities in health, economic security, care and social relationships affecting all older adults, including the LGBTQ + community, and to implement policies, initiatives and programs that protect and support New Yorkers in all age.
But we must do more than the absolute minimum to ensure that older New Yorkers, especially LGBTQ + elders, age successfully.
For decades, the city has not been able to provide human service providers with sufficient funding to meet the growing demands of aging services and ensure that all seniors can continue to thrive in their communities. To truly support older New Yorkers, the city must finally fully fund services that address the root causes of inequalities and social health determinants affecting older adults, including the LGBTQ + community. That’s what the #JustPay movement is looking for.
In addition, older LGBTQ + have thinner support networks, supported by AARP Foundation research that found that half of LGBTQ adults 45 years and older are lonely, and intersecting identities only exacerbate the incidence of loneliness. This creates a growing demand for LGBTQ + -confirming community-based services and culturally competent care to understand the challenges of LGBTQ + seniors.
These services include LGBTQ-confirming housing developments, affordable access to health services, programs that support individuals living with HIV / AIDS, and other community-based services such as centers for older adults and naturally occurring retirement communities.
The future administration must also take steps to ensure that all elderly people have access to safe, accessible housing.
With rising rental rates, over half of older New Yorkers are burdened with rent and spend more than 30% of their income on rent. Today, nearly one-third of LGBTQ + older people live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level compared to a quarter of non-LGBTQ + people as shown in the recent SAGE and AARP New York report, “Disrupting Disparities: Solutions for LGBTQ + New Yorkers at 50+. ”
In response, New York City must redouble its efforts to expand the stock of affordable senior housing by financing and developing new affordable housing, including those with culturally competent services and LGBT + -confirming housing.
Additionally, older people and especially LGBTQ + New Yorkers will remain invisible until New York City increases its efforts to collect, analyze, and report LGBTQ + and age-inclusive data. The lack of data places policy makers in unfamiliar territory as they develop policies that have the potential to significantly impact the lives and well-being of older people and LGBTQ + people.
The city must gather and report on what exists, and then seek to find ways to add data collection on the needs of LGBTQ + and older New Yorkers in existing agency assessments across the city.
Older New Yorkers built our city. They are groundbreaking for the LGBTQ + movement, which stood at the Stonewall Inn and refused to be invisible.
It’s past time for the city to stand with them.
As we look forward to the upcoming administration, SAGE and our partners at LiveOn NY are ready to work with the city to lift these pioneers and create a better New York City for all – no matter who they are or who they love.